Putnam couple sues over medical treatment

By Cara Bailey | Jan 9, 2007

CHARLESTON - A Putnam County couple is suing a local health care provider and physician for medical negligence.

James and Sandra Estes are filing a suit against Select Medical Corporation, doing business as Select Specialty Hospital -– Charleston Inc. and Kurt M. Nellhaus M.D. because of injuries James Estes received while at SSH.

On Dec. 10, 2004, Estes was involved in an automobile accident, causing severe injuries. He was admitted to Charleston Area Medical Center until Dec. 30, when he was transferred to SSH and admitted by Nellhaus for acute long-term care and treatment.

The complaint says that at the time of his admission, Estes was unresponsive, did not move his lower extremities, required ventilation via tracheotomy tube, feeding via feeding tube, had documented Methacillin Resistent Staph Aureas from his trach site, required insulin coverage for elevated glucose levels, had preexisting vascular disease and was clearly in a nutritionally compromised state, all putting him at high risk for the development of skin breakdown.

Estes was discharged from SSH and directly admitted to Teays Valley Center, a nursing facility on Jan. 25, 2005. The medical record documented only "Wounds: L calf, L foot, coccyx."

A complete physical at the center described more than 13 wounds and bedsores on his body, including large bruises and open sores.

"On Feb. 5, 2005, Estes was transferred to Putnam General Hospital for treatment of the wounds, which developed at SSH," the suit says. "His treatment included multiple surgeries for irrigation and debriedment of the wounds/bedsores and amputation of his left leg."

On Feb. 16, Estes required an above-the-knee amputation of his left leg.

The suit seeks six counts against the hospital and Nellhaus, including two counts of negligence, deceit, fraudulent concealment, breach of fiduciary duty and violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

The suit states SSH "failed to inform Estes and his family about their staffing problems and history of other instances of poor or inadequate patient care at the time of his admission. In particular, the defendants failed to inform that SSH was so poorly and/or inadequately staffed that the basic life care needs of patients could not be met 24 hours a day/seven days a week."

The Estes are seeking compenatory damages, court costs and punitive damages.

The case was filed by James Woodrow Hill and has been assigned to Judge Irene Berger.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-2749

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